When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward. I recently had a falling out with a close member of my family. I have never been so humiliated and I suppose I brought this on myself. Having Bipolar 1 makes it difficult for me at times to “keep my mouth shut.” At the time I feel that I was being verbally attacked and completely judged by this person. Nobody is perfect and I usually know after the fact that I should have not responded like I did. I recieved a letter stating all the things I did wrong over the past 23 years. Can you believe that someone can hold a grudge for that many years. I didn’t have a clue as to all these things I did or didn’t do.
I have the freedom of choice and I don’t regret any of the things that I supposidly done to hurt this person. I would never do that on purpose. What wasnt’ stated or remembered were the good things that happenend to both of us. I am not sure at all how I am going to address this matter. Time will take care of some of it and sometimes it’s best to leave things the way they are instead of digging up old wounds. I believe that I am owed an appology. I won’t get it though. This person is headstrong and very controlling.
So who hasn’t been hurt by the actions or words of another? Perhaps a parent constantly criticized you growing up, a friend who betrayed you in some way or your partner had an affair. Or maybe you’ve had a traumatic experience, such as being physically or emotionally abused by someone close to you.
These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger and bitterness.
But if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays the higher price. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
What is forgiveness?
Generally it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness means different things to different people.
The act that hurt or offended you might always be with you, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or justifying the hurt done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with your life as you should.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
Improved heart health
Lower blood pressure
Improved mental health
A stronger immune system
Fewer symptoms of depression
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you’re a grudge holder, almost anyone can learn to be more forgiving.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might:
Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:
Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them
Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
What happens if I can’t forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong.
If you find yourself stuck:
Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.
Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly.
If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.
Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.
Contributions by: Mayo Clinic Staff